I have been doing some armchair beach combing while my knee recovers and I have selected images to help tell the story of wood at the Falls of the Ohio. Since this wood was also once alive, it is also the story of trees along the Ohio Valley. When I went through my last three year’s worth of images…I found enough material for a few “wooden posts”. Hence, this is Part I of what may prove to be a couple of stories. The Falls of the Ohio is well-known for its driftwood deposits and many people (and some animals when I come to think about it) like to take advantage of this resource. I have met many a person in pursuit of a select piece of wood. What folks do with this wood is as variable as the person. Some people like to use driftwood to enhance garden displays, some are inspired to make art from the found wood, and others may choose to burn this wood during cold winter nights. I’ve seen Pileated Woodpeckers make short work of decayed tree trunks in their pursuit of carpenter ants and beetle larvae. And once I found a Mallard duck’s nest inside a hollow log. I’ve seen many beautiful fungi helping to convert this wood to humus. Driftwood is plentiful in the park and what usually happens is the Ohio River during its high water moods moves the old wood out and lays down a fresh layer that originates up-stream from us. Sometimes I wonder if the wood I’m seeing is also part of the riverbank eroding in the northeast? These days, riverine ecosystems are under so many pressures. Since the Falls environment is continually being rearranged by nature, no two years are exactly the same and the riverbank is ever-changing. It is interesting to me to think about these very images as digital driftwood that flows from the rivulet of data coming from my computer and tumbled into the ocean of info that is the internet.
A prolonged rainy system upriver from us or a sudden flash flood caused by short, but intense rain storms causes the Ohio River to rise quickly. ”New” wood flows over the top of the dam and soon mixes with wood already in the park.
Prevailing winds and river currents push the driftwood which can form large rafts and mats against the Indiana side of the Ohio River. If you notice, there aren’t many trees here with intact branches. The river breaks each tree down and keeps subdividing it into ever smaller and straighter pieces. The wood chips in the water are the remains of tree bark that have been ground off by continually rolling against the other tree trunks in the waves. Of course, there is other detritus much of it man-made also in the water. Eventually the water recedes and strands the wood in interesting formations that are a part of a new and rearranged environment. Here are a few images made while the river retreats.
Not all the driftwood gets corralled by long logs that organize the smaller ones into neat parallel rows that fill in beach space like pieces to a puzzle. It’s fascinating to get a sense of the water by how the wood was laid down. Sometimes there is just so much material that immense mounds are formed by the interlocking wood. Exploring these mounds can be tricky because the wood is still settling and caution is recommended. At the moment, there is a sizable amount of driftwood under the railroad bridge which is also closest to the dam. Here are a few images of all these logs after the water has drained away.
The small creek that flows into the Ohio River gets backed up with logs during high water. When the water recedes and deposits the wood, it covers the contours of the creek’s banks. Here are a few more recent images.
In the above image you can see how the trees that line this bank are beginning to be exposed by the river. I believe there is just so much additional water and energy in play now because of climate change that the days of gentle rains will be fewer and farther between one another. In our area, many residents have noticed that our storms seem to be fiercer and becoming more event worthy. The main beneficiary of this are the television weather forecasters who love to hype the weather anyway. I believe I will end here for now, but will continue later because there is more to say about this driftwood. To close, I will end with another large and sculptural mound of driftwood. Have a great week and month everybody!!